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Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Page: 2474

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaNationals Whip in the Senate) (18:22): I too rise to speak very briefly and to congratulate the minister for outlining what the coalition government is doing to support young people around mental health issues and developing resilience. As a former educator of young people, I understand how crucial schools and, for instance, the school chaplaincy program are in that process and in ensuring that young people have the support structures around them to assist with developing resilience and getting the appropriate mental health care as they proceed through school.

As a National Party senator, a lot of my work is in regional Australia. I note the Assistant Minister for Health is in the chamber tonight and I know she has a personal and keen interest in young people's mental health issues. She is a strong supporter of the headspace program, which has been set up throughout regional Australia. It has just completed a survey of 3,634 young people aged between 12 and 25 revealing that some of the precursors to issues that occur within the schoolyard, such as alcohol fuelled events on the weekend and drugs, are actually quite significant. Ninety-two per cent of young people have drunk alcohol and 34 per cent have taken drugs over the last two months. That has a severe impact on young people's mental health and it is a growing challenge for those people working with young people to ensure they have appropriate care.

It is also something that should be a part of teacher training. There needs to be more of a focus at universities to ensure that not just the chaplains, mental health workers and community health workers in our local schools but also the teachers are better equipped to deal with mental health issues that arise within the classroom. Our government has been a keen supporter of the MindMatters program, which is a tool that teachers can use within classrooms to assist with identifying problems and to assist young people to meet the challenges of being an adolescent in our classrooms.

I also know that the online cybersafety working group—the coalition's policy development process—put forward some key areas for us to target, such as the rapid takedown of bullying material on sites like Facebook, Twitter et cetera to ensure that bullying that occurs not just face-to-face within schools and within communities but also online is addressed and dealt with to ensure that our young people have the optimal environment in which to grow and flourish.

Question agreed to.